Taking a Walk in the Park
Gregory Carrie discusses the community’s History in building Joe W. Brown Memorial Park
Joe W. Brown Memorial Park and its 163 acres of greenspace and public facilities have been a cornerstone in New Orleans East community building since it was donated in 1959. Since its inception, the park has featured 83 acres of protected nature and popular recreational services. Today, the Park has newly renovated facilities and state-of-the-art sports complexes that serve the community and the park’s three surrounding schools. Daily and annual events fill the park’s itinerary and serve as conduits for civic engagement, relationship building and a more physically active community.
“Joe W. Brown Memorial Park is like the heartbeat of New Orleans East,” says longtime New Orleans East resident Gregory Carrie. “With its community meetings and events, it’s a place that takes you away from the city for a moment and just get lost in whatever it is you like to do there.”
Joe W. Brown Memorial Park is a 163-acre park that has kept its promise to be a source of philanthropy and public good since the land was donated by Dorothy Dorsett Brown in honor of her late husband, Joe W. Brown in 1959. As the land around the memorial park transforms, as businesses, homes and industries come and go, Joe W. Brown Memorial Park has remained home to beautiful walking paths and recreational amenities as well as 86 acres of preserved nature in the Audubon Nature Center.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but New Orleans East started with nothing,” says Carrie. “I used to play with the cows back here and watch the interstate construction. They dug a half dozen human-made lakes and completely shaped the geography of this area, but the entirety of Joe W. Brown Memorial Park was never touched by them. Since I’ve lived here it has never gotten smaller; none of it has ever been sold as was mandated by Joe W. Brown, himself. It’s a fixture for the community that has been built around it since the 1960s.
“Now, the park is surrounded by three state-of-the-art schools and is the centerpiece of the East community. Joe W. Brown supports these schools as space where they can hold events all year round. People around the community put flyers up on bulletin boards and hold their events. It is a hub for community building.”
Joe W. Brown Memorial Park has taken great strides in recovering after its facilities were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Since, the park has rebuilt a state-of-the-art track and field, football and baseball stadiums, updated tennis courts, pavilions, an indoor recreation center, a gymnasium, an indoor pool, and is soon to open a brand new nature center.
“It’s better than ever. My family gets a lot of use out of it,” says Carrie. “We go on picnics out there under the oak trees, and my kids participate in all kinds of events in the park. It’s got something for everyone. You can fish in the lakes, and there is a highly developed play center for the kids. It’s honestly really hard to keep up with all of the things that the park has to offer. It’s just incredible how much it has to offer our community.”
On any given day the park’s event itinerary is chalk full from 8 a.m. till sunset. Daily events include swimming lessons for all ages, tennis lessons, after-school health and nutrition programs, and water aerobics to name a few. The park, with the support of Friends of Joe W. Brown and the Audubon Nature Institute, also hosts many annual and larger events and fundraisers like the Back to Nature Heart Walk, Movies in the Park, Under the Tree Learning Camp and NOLA East Friends Fest. The events gather the local community and become an incredible conduit for civic engagement and community relationship building.
“More people than ever use Joe W. Brown Park,” Carrie says. “The young community members gather in the park to get away from things and listen to the music they want to listen to and be a community together. Local church groups and families gather in the park to talk about things and be active together. Since the indoor pool renovation, and the new Nature Center, the facilities and landscape all just look especially incredible. This park is truly the heartbeat around here, and we’re all the better for it.”